1492 – 1734 Early Encounters Dutch Colonies

Key Ideas

1. Women were an integral part of the daily life, culture, and success of New Netherland.

2. Dutch women participated in colonial politics and trade.

3. Free and enslaved Black women in New Netherland had to navigate a challenging and often unclear set of social mores and legal boundaries.

4. Native women played a proactive role in tribal responses to Dutch colonization.

Introduction

Nicholas Jansz Visscher. Novi Belgii noaeque Angliae nec non partic Virginiae tabula multi in locis emendata, 1682 after 1655. New-York Historical Society Library.

Women in the Dutch Colonies, 1624–1715

The government of the Dutch Republic granted the Dutch West India Company a monopoly over all Dutch trade in the Americas in 1621.

This was the beginning of an organized Dutch effort to establish colonies and trading posts in North America, South America, and the Caribbean. These new colonies were to be part of the larger Dutch trading empire, which had trading posts throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. The money made from global trade funded the outpouring of creativity and scientific discovery that characterized the Dutch Golden Age.

During this time of growth, the colony of New Netherland was born. Under the direct control of the Dutch West India Company, the New Netherland territory covered most of present day New York State, as well as parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware. From its foundation in 1624 to its surrender to the English in 1664, the business of New Netherland was business. Traders in New Netherland exchanged European goods for beaver fur with local Native people. Traders also bought and sold other natural resources that could be used in other parts of the empire. The Atlantic slave trade was central to the economy and development of the colony.

Section Essential Questions

1. What were the rights and responsibilities of women in colonial Dutch society?

2. How did race, class, and social differences affect the lives of the women in New Netherland?

3. How did women contribute to the establishment of the economy, society, politics, and culture in New Netherland?

4. What gender-specific challenges did women face in the Dutch colonies?

Resources

These three documents chronicle the efforts of enslaved woman Mayken van Angola to secure her freedom from the Dutch West India Company after thirty-four years of servitude.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, free Black colonials, self-emancipation
Go to Resource
In this document, the Dutch government awards Sarah Roelfs Kierstede van Borsum a land grant in recognition of her services as a translator in meetings with the Lenni-Lenape.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
human settlement, Indigenous cultures of the Americas, European colonization of the Americas, Dutch conquest
Go to Resource
This beautiful painting demonstrates the wealth, power, and extent of the trade network of the Dutch Republic in the 1600s.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
trade
Go to Resource
This document recounts how two wives of New Amsterdam councilmembers opened negotiations with English invaders in 1664.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
English conquest, European colonization of the Americas
Go to Resource
The cradleboard and loopwagen allowed Oneida and Dutch women to work while still keeping their children safe and close by. They symbolize the double duty all mothers in the early colonial period had to do.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, European colonization of the Americas, colonial society
Go to Resource
This document illuminates the way the Dutch Orphanmasters' Court protected the inheritance rights of young women, and one mother's attempt to keep them from meddling in her affairs.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society
Go to Resource
One of New Netherland's first settlers recounts her earliest memories of life in the colony.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
European colonization of the Americas, Dutch conquest, colonial society
Go to Resource

Life Stories

This is the story of a well-born Dutch woman who became a powerful businessperson in New Netherland.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
trade
Go to Resource
This is the story of a Montaukett sunksquaw who manipulated the colonial powers around her to solidify her status and her people’s security.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, European colonization of the Americas, Dutch conquest, English conquest
Go to Resource
This is the story of a free Black orphan who ran afoul of the courts in New Amsterdam and was ultimately enslaved.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
free Black colonials, slavery, colonial society
Go to Resource
The story of the first woman to make a journey to the Americas for scientific purposes and one of the leading entomologists of the Enlightenment.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Enlightenment, European colonization of the Americas
Go to Resource
The story of an English religious refugee who funded and founded her own settlement in New Netherland.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, European colonization of the Americas
Go to Resource
The story of a woman who navigated social and legal customs to gain freedom from slavery for herself and her family.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, free Black colonials, self-emancipation
Go to Resource